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Gladiators call on Sauer to step between pipes

DULUTH -- Without either goalies back from their AHL affiliates, the Gwinnett Gladiators put in a call to Billy Sauer on Thursday.

The netminder, who played for the Gladiators last season and was re-signed during the summer, hopped a plane Thursday night bound for Gwinnett.

He left Rochester, N.Y. -- ironically where one of the Gladiators' goalies is now -- and will play tonight at home against South Carolina.

"I'm excited to get back into it," Sauer said. "I've been skating, I'm not worried about being out of shape, but it's just not the same when you don't have a team."

Sauer has had a tough time finding a place to play since finishing his collegiate career at Michigan in 2009. The most games he's played for any one team is 18 for Gwinnett during the first half of last season. After playing for four different ECHL teams as a rookie under contract with AHL Lake Erie, Sauer signed with Gwinnett in August at 2010. He was named ECHL goalie of the week in late November. In February, Sauer was called up to AHL Worcester and when he returned a week later, was traded to Las Vegas. The 23-year-old saw limited action with the Wranglers and was set to come back to Gwinnett under former head coach Jeff Pyle.

But the Gladiators got a new coach this summer when Pyle left for AHL Texas and two new NHL affiliates.

With just 20 teams in the ECHL and 30 in the NHL, goaltenders more than anyone are getting pushed out of jobs.

Gwinnett released Sauer before the season started and he signed with Greenville.

But he was only there for training camp and a few games before once again being the odd-man out.

"There's a lot more give if you're a forward or 'D'," Sauer said. "Being a goalie, there are only two spots. If you're not signed by an NHL team, you're on the outside looking in."

Sauer didn't immediately head home after being released by Greenville. He spent a couple weeks in Gwinnett training with goalie coach Al Blevins at the Duluth IceForum.

"It got to the point where nothing was happening," Sauer said. "I had a bunch of teams call, but so early in the season, no one wanted to make a move. I figured I might as well see my family."

He's been in Rochester for just nine days -- half of which was spent going back and forth with the Gladiators about the possibility of coming here.

Gwinnett had both its goalies, Jeff Jakaitis and Marc Cheverie, called up to separate AHL affiliates Monday.

As late as Wednesday, Gladiators' head coach John Wroblewski was expecting them back before tonight's game.

Team president Steve Chapman got in touch with Sauer last Sunday when this situation first began to develop. He didn't give Sauer the green light until Thursday.

"I've been in the ropes the entire week," Sauer said. "(Thursday) morning Chapman called me and said they were flying me in. It was the call I had been waiting for and hoping for."

Sauer gets a chance to play again and the Gladiators get a goalie that had a .907 save percentage for them last season.